Wednesday 14 October 2009

More Manitoba potatoes

I'd previously blogged on scraps between small potato farmers in Manitoba and the marketing board. CJOB radio in Manitoba hosted a call-in show where Erin Crampton (Crampton's Market) and Trevor Schreimer (her supplier) went head to head with Larry MacIntosh (Peak of the Market) and Ian Wishart from Keystone Agricultural Producers. It's here, starting at the 10:49 mark.

MacIntosh notes that while they have full power to shut down every roadside stand in the province, they've condescended to allow these to exist; they're going to consider, over the winter, whether to write in specific exemptions to allow small growers to sell at roadside stands and at farmers' markets. Those exemption may not allow folks like Shreimer to sell to small independent grocers who focus on local produce; it'll depend entirely on the whims of the 40-odd large growers who comprise Peak of the Market's board. At least that's my paraphrasing of what he said -- he makes it sound prettier (democratic outcome of votes of members, etc).

It's the medieval guild system. You can operate if all the other folks in the guild think you should be able to operate, but only in the way that they'll allow you to operate.

Callers to the programme thought it ridiculous that anybody should have to seek another's permission to sell a potato. Other callers complained of similar problems for free range chicken growers in getting around the poultry marketing board.

The way MacIntosh and Wishart talk, it sounds like it would be impossible for New Zealand to have functioning markets in potatoes - we don't have marketing boards. And yet I'm perfectly able to buy potatoes, and potato growers seem to survive perfectly well. Perhaps I've just imagined the potatoes I've here been eating.

Update: Note Bartley Kives's recent story in the Free Press.

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